Category Archives: Mississippi History

How Do You Know That

I love a puzzle, I love a mystery, and I love history.  The entangled combination of those passions yields hours of enjoyment for me, pouring over old scraps of paper and pictures.  I happily lose myself in the pursuit of some fact that is today largely unknown – regardless of its importance – and in the uncovering of some odd and ironic link between faces and places of the distant past to the here and now.  I like to think, to find out things.

A few years ago, Baldwyn native Al Phillips brought a tattered, old show poster into my Main Street office.  As is the case quite often these days, Al told me I could hold on to his discovery.  He said I could hang it up somewhere or just put it to use wherever I saw a good fit with the rest of the town’s growing history collection.

I cleaned it up a little and had it framed.  It now hangs prominently in the foyer of The Claude Gentry Theatre.

Here’s what it says …

High School Auditorium

Baldwyn, Miss.

Adm. 25 & 50 Cents

Thurs. Nite, Nov. 21, 8pm

_____

In Person – The Original

DELMORE BROTHERS

Alton & Rabon

Makers of Millions of Phonograph Records Including the Famous

“HILLBILLY BOOGIE” King Record No. 527

Stars of

WSM GRAND OLE OPRY For Seven Years

WLW Boone County Jamboree for Four Years

_____

WAYNE RANEY

CBS Harmonica King

Plus

CYCLONE

The Funny Boy That Tickles Everybody

_____

A Clean Complete Show Guaranteed to Please the Entire Family

Singing – Playing – Comedy – Spirituals and Old Time Hymns

Heard Over WMC Daily, 6:00 to 6:30 AM

Don’t Dare To Miss This Treat!

 

That says a lot.  It tells us who was coming to Baldwyn to perform and where the show would be held.  It tells us what the show was all about and even why it would be worth our time to go see it.

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But what does it NOT say?  The answer: it doesn’t say WHEN then show occurred.

Well, sure it does, one might counter – it clearly says right there at the top “Thurs. Nite, Nov. 21, 8pm.”  Certainly, for the original reader of the poster, that bit of information, the one-line blurb, would be enough to pinpoint the date when the comedy of Cyclone could be enjoyed.  It would be the “next” November 21.  The one that was upcoming.  But for us, decades hence, we don’t know the year.

And that’s where I get interested.  Simply because there is something unknown, I want to know it.  Whether or not the desire to know the unknown is an admirable or deplorable trait in human beings, I’ll leave for another story, but for now, let’s see if we can find out what year this show came to Baldwyn.

My best friend – Google – tells me that Alton and Rabon Delmore were stars of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930’s, actively performing from 1926 to 1952.  I also find that Wayne Raney, our poster’s second-billed star, was active as a performer from 1934 through the 1980s.

I look back at our poster – what do we know?  The Delmore Brothers had already recorded Hillbilly Boogie.  We know that they were stars of the Grand Ole Opry for seven years, but we don’t know if it was the immediately preceding seven years.  The same can be said for their time with the Boone County Jamboree.  Wikipedia says Wayne Raney played with the Delmore Brothers after World War II, but that doesn’t absolutely negate the possibility that they all happened upon the same card in Baldwyn on one odd night at another earlier time.  Rabon Delmore died of lung cancer in 1952.  Obviously, that sets the final range of date possibilities.

I shift gears and get analytical.  Between 1934 and 1952, only three times does November 21st fall on a Thursday – 1935, 1940, and 1946.

The Delmore Brothers became regulars on the Grand Ole Opry in 1933, so by 1935 they probably wouldn’t have been touting themselves as “stars” of the Opry for seven years.  Plus, Raney was the whopping age of 14 in 1935.  1940 seems like the likely year of the Baldwyn show since the Delmore Brothers would have been with the Opry for precisely seven years at that time.  However, coincidentally, the brothers left the Opry in late 1939.  Therefore, the duration of their stardom with the Opry was exactly seven years, and that was a fact they could have used in self-promotion for the rest of their careers.

So, what else do we know?  The Delmore Brothers were the maker of “the famous Hillbilly Boogie, King Record. No. 527.”  Hillbilly Boogie was released by the King label in March of … 1946.

There you have it.  The big to-do at the Baldwyn High School Auditorium starring the Delmore Brothers, Wayne Raney and Cyclone (I’ll find him later) happened on a Thursday night, November 21st, 1946.

Puzzle finished.  Mystery solved.  Check.

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Free Yodeling During the Ascension

Baldwyn, Mississippi, is a town with a rich history of entertainment.

Multiple theaters, both film and stage, have existed within the four-block downtown historic district from the late 1800’s through present day.  In 2011, when the Claude Gentry Theatre was being created, Bimbo Griffin’s construction crews pulled silent movie posters from the ceiling.  Yes, the ceiling.  That’s when we realized that The Claude Gentry Theatre at 110 West Main Street and its sister building at 112 West Main once had a common 2nd floor.  In fact, an expansive upper floor auditorium across the two buildings housed at first the Baldwyn “Opera House,” where the local high school staged a production of the play “The Deacon” in 1907, and later “The Princess Theater,” where they played the silent films “Love Is Love” starring Albert Ray, “Beating the Odds” with Harry T. Morey, and a serial called “Bound and Gagged” with Marguerite Courtot, all in 1919.

A playbill for the Opera House hangs near the cash register at Agnew’s Restaurant in Pratts, and the posters unearthed by Bimbo Griffin today grace the walls of the Claude Gentry itself.

Somehow things in Baldwyn seem to braid tightly together over time into one strong rope of historic continuity.  That’s how I see it anyway.

“A Big Balloon Ascension and Parachute Jump!”  That was the headline.

IMG_8459Three times on the page the reader is informed that the spectacle to come – on June 15th, the next Thursday – was FREE.

The event was multi-faceted.  Not only was it a balloon ascension, it was a balloon ascension by “the biggest balloon in the world.”  That’s what it said.

And not only was it a parachute jump, it was “a 5000-foot parachute jump by a girl.”

I squinted to make sure I read that right.  Yep, “by a girl.”  I guess in 1939 a parachuting “girl” still had to untie her apron, hand her babies off to her mother, and ask her husband for permission before crawling into a balloon basket for an ascension.  Different times.

And that’s not all!  The Journal boldly announced that “Angelina and her Yodeling Cowgirls” would furnish music for the ascension, at 2:30, and then appear in the Baldwyn Theater (now the Baldwyn School District Central Office) with a matinee at 3:30 and evening shows later that night.

A few clicks on the computer was all it took to learn that “Angelina” was Angelina Cianciolo Palazola Gish Grosswiller of Memphis, who passed away in 1997, after 60 wonderful years of entertaining with the all-girl group she formed.  The “Yodeling Cowgirls” became the “Roaming Cowgirls” in the mid-40’s, when their yodeler quit, but they continued on with radio appearances, USO shows and private events for decades in various configurations.

On June 15, 1939, cowgirls yodeled in downtown Baldwyn while the biggest balloon in the world ascended 5000 feet so that a girl could jump out of it wearing a parachute.

We framed the paper.  It’ll hang in Tom’s Drug Store very soon as a permanent reminder that this town of ours knows how to truly entertain.

My 15-year-old Maddux and I looked at the framed page a few days ago, still in limbo for the moment in the office of Six Shooter Studios.

His fingers moved over the edge of frame as he studied it.

“Isn’t that funny?” I prodded.

“Well, I never saw a balloon in Baldwyn – I think I’d like to see that,” he said.

You know something?  I think I would, too.

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Simon Sez

As the opening of a newly-renovated Tom’s Drug Store & Soda Shop on Baldwyn’s Main Street rapidly approaches, an extensive effort is being made to identify, sort and evaluate the voluminous historic collection of the late Simon “Buddy” Spight.

Simon passed away over six years ago – June 2, 2012 – but the ultimate legacy of the man, who loved Baldwyn, Mississippi, with true passion, may just now be reaching its infancy.  In the back rooms of a few buildings on Main Street there exist ten thousand pieces of paper, pictures, paintings, models, and artifacts of all kinds, collected over a lifetime by Simon Spight.

I have myself already laid hands on framed commissions of famous Confederate officers, a 1903 Blue Mountain College class picture, mugshots from the Lee County Sheriff’s office from the early 1970’s, scaled drawings of Baldwyn streets with the homes marked with resident names at different times in the past century, a 1925 official map of Baldwyn from the Library of Congress, original poems in both hard copy and on cassette tape with Simon’s bass voice reading his works, pencil sketches of our town’s historic buildings as they once existed, and pictures of literally thousands of Baldwyn residents, taken throughout the entire duration of the town’s existence, 1861 to now.  The finds are incredible already … and we have barely skimmed through a quarter, maybe, of the materials the man graciously left this town.

Frankly, I can write from today until the day I die and never do sufficient justice to the tales that are contained in the archives of Simon “Buddy” Spight.  Nonetheless, I’ll try to periodically deliver some of the most notable re-discoveries to you in this column every few weeks.

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Along with providing inspiration for stories of Baldwyn’s historic past, many of the documents and photographs will also make their way to public display in Tom’s Drug Store, which will serve a dual purpose as the Baldwyn History Museum.  One such document that has been re-discovered in Simon’s collection is – I believe –the original layout of the town of Baldwyn.  The map would have been drawn in the late 1850’s or perhaps as late as early 1860.  It’s hand-inked on sepia paper and shows the city blocks of “Baldwyn.”  Simon or someone prior to him mounted the map on a backing board with glue – I do wish that hadn’t been done – but the faded and crinkled lines clearly show the dividing boundary between old Tishomingo and Itawamba Counties slashing at a slight diagonal through the Main Street of Baldwyn, just as the county line does today.

A reference to “Carrollville,” the original community that shifted a mile and a half over to Baldwyn when the Mobile & Ohio Railroad reached this spot in December of 1860, is shown about where the depot once stood.  The other words in the overall phrase written on the map aren’t clear.  I’m working on deciphering that.  I’ll report back if the rest of the notation becomes clear and means something interesting.

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(Just so you know, Marshall J.D. Baldwyn was the Mobile, Alabama, native who proposed the M & O Railroad.  He envisioned a connection between his south Alabama hometown and the Ohio River, suggesting that that connection would make Mobile a commercial competitor with New Orleans.  Baldwyn believed that providing an alternate route for finished goods to reach the gulf coast, other than the Mississippi River, would divert enough shipping to help his Mobile thrive.  Baldwyn himself ceremoniously drove a railroad spike into the track in our Baldwyn in 1860, and this town, sitting at approximately the halfway point of the full length of the railway, took the visionary prospector’s name as its own.)

I would propose that the map was drawn by Charles Wesley Williams, the first surveyor of old Tishomingo County and a founder of Booneville.  In a way, he was a founder of Baldwyn, too.  The records show that it was Williams, along with his close associates and relatives, who bought and sold the original plots of land outlined on the map.  Those friends and relatives included Col. Richard Clayton, Carrollville’s postmaster from 1840 to 1853, and Porter Walker, the sheriff of old Tishomingo County (which is modern day Alcorn, Tishomingo and Prentiss Counties combined).  Charles Wesley Williams is one of my direct-line ancestors, and though he may have been something of an opportunist, as an engineer, I’m significantly proud of the fact that I’m standing on a block in Baldwyn that he created on paper in 1860.  And today, I’m making drawings of things that I hope to create in 2020 and beyond.  That’s the kind of cyclical, generational, uber-coincidence that helps me know that there’s meaning under the surface of all this life-stuff.

I think Simon Spight saw that, too.

So … all this is derived from just one piece of paper, re-discovered in Simon’s collection … and we still have 9,999 to go.

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The Gorilla Girl’s Relative Importance

“Come inside!  See her change before your very eyes!  The strange and beautiful girl becomes a terrifying ape!  Discovered in the wilds of darkest Africa, see her transform.  See the hair grow!  See the muscles swell, behind iron bars, placed there for your protection. Come!  See!  The Gorilla Girl!  If you dare.”

That’s what the carnival barker for the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show boomed, through his crackling microphone, just outside her tent.  A mystified kid of 14 and his friend stood slack-jawed on the east side of the midway.  An exchange of nervous glances and false bravado swirled in crescendo, culminating with the purchase of tickets to see this spectacle.  Our sweaty hands handed over our last crumpled dollars, and we huddled inside the square canvas enclosure with a dozen other lost souls.  How could such a shocking miracle of nature have come all the way to Tupelo, Mississippi, in September of 1978?

They are building an office building today near the spot where my friend and I stood spellbound by the Gorilla Girl forty years ago.  Four stories, they say.  The first of a matching pair planned for the ever-expanding Fairpark area of Tupelo, perfectly designed with its future mate to fit neatly into the aesthetically-pleasing architecture already in existence.  It’s a beautiful place.

At the south end of the fair’s midway, the “Himalaya,” twenty or so linked cars on a circular track, loudly blared rock music on a loop, coaxing passers-by into that high energy attraction.  Centrifugal force drove any passenger who sat to the inside of the ride outward into the passenger who sat at the edge.  It was crushing and irresistible and undoubtedly unsafe.  I remember how my arms felt straining to hold the lap bar in a futile effort not to drive the air from my friend who had mistakenly sat on the outside.  Once the ride started, it was too late.  And then it went backwards.

There’s now a statue of Elvis Presley, Tupelo’s most notable son, at the center of Fairpark.  Elvis was already a national phenomenon when he came to the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show in 1956.  He was the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and his September trip to the fair that year was historic, an electric homecoming by a poor Tupelo boy who’d gone out into the world and made it big.  Those who were there on that day still remember it.  And they still talk about it.

Today, because of the perpetual love and adoration of Elvis, that one moment in September of ‘56 overwhelms all other moments in the history of the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show.  That’s an injustice, I think, to all those other years, decade after decade, that impacted impressionable Mississippians like me.  In 1978, my friend and I had not one thought of Elvis in our heads when those drum beats started inside that dark tent and a scantily-clad, long-haired girl writhed inside a cage in apparent pain.  Our hearts did beat fast though, probably even faster than the girls who squealed at The King twenty-two years earlier.

My mother took me on the “Zipper” when I was about five.  It was always set up near the south end of the fair, too, just northwest of the Himalaya.   The Tilt-A-Whirl, the Scrambler, the Octopus – they were all in that general area.  I assumed my mother was a mature adult when she put me on the Zipper, a vertical track of enclosed bench seats that went both up and down and rotated head over heels.  It’s hard to explain the motion.  It was like turning flips on a trampoline while on a Ferris wheel.  I was five.  She was twenty-five and today would be immediately arrested for child endangerment.  The thing had a “safety” restraint, which fit my mother nicely but allowed me considerable freedom of movement.  I’d say … sort of like a loose sock in a clothes dryer.  That’s about right.  She did try to catch me every cycle or so.  We never rode a Zipper again.

She changed.  The Gorilla Girl.  In dim lighting behind iron bars, a girl became an ape.  And we freaked out.  We didn’t talk tough.  We exhibited zero swagger.  When the gorilla grabbed the cage door and ripped it off its hinges, my friend I poured out of the tent back into the midway of the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show with the other dozen lost souls, like one homogeneous liquid, through every flap available, under tent walls.  We squirted out.  The drum beat had stopped, and the barker had screamed at the ape in a terrifying voice, “Get back! Get back! Get back!”  We heard it somewhere far, far behind us.

They are building a beautiful pair of office buildings in Fairpark today, near the statue of Elvis.  I’m sure they will be wonderful.  Almost as wonderful as the Zipper, almost as wonderful as the Himalaya, almost as wonderful as the Gorilla Girl.

Almost.

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A Tall, True Tale of a Southern Pioneer: Abednego Inman

A.I. TaylorIn 1838, when he was only 24 years old, Abednego Inman Taylor was innkeeper at an original Mississippi tavern, the Carrollville Inn, located just north of modern-day Baldwyn.  He and his wife Martha Gibbs had come to northeast Mississippi from Franklin County, Tennessee, with the first influx of settlers, those who rushed in to fill the void left when the Chickasaws accepted final removal in 1837.  Taylor was a stereotype of the early Presbyterian pioneers who struggled through the Cumberland Gap and along the Tennessee River in a steady stream until the Southern United States, from eastern Tennessee to Texas, was settled.  Descendants of A.I. and his siblings – including Taylor Lindley, Louis Cochran, Tommy Shellnut, and many others – are widely known by current Baldwyn residents.  The original innkeeper, A. I. Taylor, is today acknowledged as an important founder of old Carrollville and its municipal offspring, Baldwyn.

In the context of modern sensibilities, one finds it difficult to conceive a motivation that would launch a man and his family into far-away, densely-wooded wilderness to somehow there achieve a better standard of living.  But to Taylor, it was simply a family tradition.  Likely, it was A. I.’s namesake grandfather – Maj. Abednego Inman – who was responsible for passing on this family’s trailblazing spirit of adventure and migration to the young Taylor.

A story from the life of Baldwyn forefather and notable Indian fighter, Abednego Inman …

Abednego Inman, was one of three brothers – the others being, of course, Shadrach and Meshach – who left their home in England prior to the American Revolution. The mobile Inman trio and their families passed through Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee eventually joining Daniel Boone in his exploration of the wild country west of the Cumberland Mountains.

In 1772, Boone led Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the Appalachian trails they had mutually established and pressed further into territory where the Chickasaws and the more dangerous Cherokees ruled.  A harsh winter descended upon the exploration party, and soon their food supplies were exhausted.  They resorted to eating the only thing available, native game that they were fortunate enough to kill with their rifles, and that was a feat not so easily accomplished in the dead of winter.  The beleaguered group meandered into central Tennessee and set up camp near the famous Nickajack Cave.  With no sentinel posted, the weakened pioneers were surprised by an attack of Chickamauga Cherokees.  Nearly all the band of adventurers were killed or wounded.  Among the dead was Meshach Inman.

Shadrach Inman escaped death but was seriously wounded by a Cherokee spear.  Still, he managed to rejoin the fierce and fleet Boone who led all the survivors he could gather on a race to safety.  The Chickamauga pursued the party for days but the reenergized woodsman Boone moved “like a ghost” through the winter countryside.

Daniel Boone Indian FighterDuring the battle, the third brother Abednego was struck in the forehead with a tomahawk.  He carried the resulting scar for the rest of his life. Injured and thought dead by his compatriots, Abednego Inman found a hiding place in a hollow tree, where he essentially remained immobile for nine days without food and with very little water.  Somehow he eventually gathered enough strength to make his escape, which he did, hobbling home over hundreds of miles alone through the wilds of eastern Tennessee.

Abednego Inman, who would later fight with Tennessee’s first governor John Sevier at King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War, was a survivor.  The blood of this adventurous pioneer flows through many of the families that settled Baldwyn, Mississippi, passing first through his grandson, a founder of old Carrollville, the innkeeper Abednego Inman Taylor.

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Signs of the Times

Claude Gentry TheatreLast weekend, Thursday through Sunday, the Claude Gentry Theatre & Simon Spight Auditorium opened its doors on Main Street for the first time, and with great success – four sold-out shows.  The new 90-seat venue presented a Relay For Life, fund-raising variety show, produced by the 1st Baptist Church RFL Team, entitled “A Really Big Show.”

As the 500 or so visitors to Baldwyn’s Historic District – a total including audience, cast and crew – enjoyed the reemerging nightlife of Main Street, they passed under two new signs erected on the theater’s front, signs that had been carefully designed to evoke feelings of both nostalgia and progress.

The Claude Gentry TheatreThe Claude Gentry Theatre sign is an internally-lighted, steel replica of a neon sign that once hung just across the street at Audie Coggins’ Baldwyn Theatre.  When Claude Gentry purchased the theater in 1944, he changed its name to “The Ritz Theatre” and operated it into the 1960’s.  It was Mr. Gentry who changed the T-shaped sign to read “Ritz,” rather than “Baldwyn,” horizontally across its top, but he retained the “THEATRE” lettering running vertically down the leg of the “T” as it was originally created.

The sign that now shines over the new theater, 20-feet above the street, was matched to old pictures during its design process, and the exact perimeter shape and coloration was mirrored as closely as possible to Coggins’ original, the clear intention being the re-creation of an iconic sign on the street in Baldwyn.  Even the sign’s aesthetic effect on other storefront features, especially the historic Tom’s Drug Store sign hanging three buildings to the east, was considered before its final position was set.  As Baldwyn-ites pass on Main Street for decades to come, the Claude Gentry Theatre sign, shining bright white through acrylic panes, will provide a reminder of eras past while ushering patrons into new creative entertainment of the here-and-now.

Simon Spight SignAlongside the Gentry sign, just to its west, a Simon Spight Auditorium marker was erected on the same brick storefront last week.  The late Simon “Buddy” Spight, more than anyone, carried the torch of Baldwyn history into the present with his writings and collections of artifacts.  Donations from Mr. Spight’s estate, in fact, made the accelerated opening of the Claude Gentry Theatre even possible as curtains, lights, sound equipment and other theatrical necessities where specifically acquired with funds left for those purposes by Spight.  Simon Spight loved to write, not just for content, but to show off the flourishes of his penmanship.  The sign erected on the western side of the theater front is a burned steel duplicate of Simon Spight’s actual signature nested on top of the word “Auditorium,” presented in a western-style font.  Simon’s autograph was taken from the funeral registry of long-time Baldwyn alderman and post master Bruce McElroy.  A digital picture was made and copied into a mechanical design program at Quail Ridge Engineering.  The signature was carefully digitized with only a minor adjustment or two being made to hold all the pieces of the name together.  QRE then fabricated the sign in its Guntown facility, and Quail Ridge Properties erected it last Friday.  Now when people say that Simon Spight left his mark on Baldwyn, they can look at the south-facing wall of 110 West Main Street and point to the literal proof.

Tom's Neon SignThis week the Tom’s Drug Store sign is coming down – but not permanently.  The most iconic symbol of Baldwyn needs a make-over, and Quail Ridge Properties will begin refurbishing the sign immediately, along with the two building facades at 104 and 106 West Main where it has been posted for more than half a century.  It is unlikely that the broken neon tubes which once lit the pharmacy entrance will be restored at this time, but an original paint job, a more stable erection method, and supplemental external lighting will all be a part of this renovation.  The ultimate, overall goal for this property is the recreation of Tom’s soda shop which would operate hand-in-hand with a new Baldwyn History Museum.  More details are just around the corner on this project.

Soon signs for The Claude Gentry Theatre, The Simon Spight Auditorium and Tom’s Drug Store will all stand in an orderly row on the north side of Main Street, inspiration from the past, shining towards a bright future in Baldwyn.

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Elephants On Main

Elephant on MainIn the fall of 1963, almost 50 years ago, the “Miller Brothers Famous Circus” came to Baldwyn. The Miller’s travelling show held two performances each day on October 9th and 10th – right on Main Street – and boasted of clowns, 20 cages of wild animals, monkeys, “diving dogs” (whatever those are) and “Eddie Frisco and His Comedy Hot Rod” in a full page spread in the local newspaper. City merchants of the day sponsored elephant rides for young and old, providing discount tickets to those who attended the shows. A photograph of the performing pachyderm plodding down Main Street, with a buggy full of kids in tow, is included in the October 10th printing of the Baldwyn News.

The circus came, entertained, and went near the back-end of downtown Baldwyn’s heyday. Hundreds of pictures exist of Main Street from that era – the late 1940’s to the mid 1960’s – showing people sardine-packed up and down the street so thick that there is little room to move.

Baldwyn Christmas Parade 1950Twenty-seven businesses are listed in that edition of the Baldwyn News. Those named as sponsors of the Miller Brothers Famous Circus were: Hopkins Furn. & Appliance, Miller’s, C.S. Poole Contractor, Buster McElroy & Co., Bryan Rogers Auto Parts, Shellnut’s, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Blue Bell Inc., Baldwyn Milling Co., Tom’s Drug Store, Baldwyn Concrete Works, Golden Rule Store, Western Auto Store, Houston Drug Store, Gentry Insurance Agency, Davis Lumber Company, Lucky Star Industries, Hopkins Big Star, Ritz Theatre, Baldwyn Farmers Co-Op, R & W Cleaners, Baldwyn Implement Co., Big $ Center, Hill Auto Supply, Cunningham’s Grocery, Baldwyn Dry Goods, and M. Gorden.

A quick scan of these businesses with respect to local records indicates that 15 of the 27 were located inside the current 4-block historic district, and ten others were only a street or two away. Only the garment factories Lucky Star and Blue Bell were to be found any considerable distance from the heart of Main Street. Yet of all the businesses listed, only Farmers & Merchants Bank and Houston Drug Store are still working in Baldwyn today under their 1963 names. Perhaps as many as six others may still point to a “descendent business” that continues operation here in Baldwyn or the general vicinity, but even so, the count reveals, obviously, that at least nineteen circus sponsors of 1963 have ceased to exist entirely. Small Town Mississippi died with those 19 businesses and others like them at some point in the last four decades.

But now, it’s 2013, and Baldwyn, against all odds, is in resurgence. The Blonde Pistol, Silly Sisters, and The Tin Roof are selling retail clothes and gifts right on Main Street and a lot of doubting, old-school business-types are amazed. Even better, more complimentary stores are on the way, as growing evidence in several long-vacant store windows will attest. Even a Baldwyn community theater will open for business by August and host three productions before the year ends. So what come’s next?

Can Baldwyn return to days of packed city streets … filled with shoppers … and diners … and those looking for entertainment?

Watch out for elephants crossing Main in the near future.

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